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{UAH} Hope for the future: Uganda is going to change, and the future was in Salem Friday night

Hope for the future: Uganda is going to change, and the future was in Salem Friday night
  • Donald Dodd
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Uganda is generally considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. About 38 percent of the population lives on an average of $1.25 a day, and in the 1970's, dictator Idi Amin was known around the world for mass killings that took the lives of as many as half a million Ugandans.

Corruption, murder and civil rights violations still plague the land-locked East African country that is home to 39 million people.

Among those 39 million people are Majo, Annet and Jascinta, three young girls who are part of the African Children's Choir that performed Friday night at First Baptist Church. To borrow an old cliché, they are the next generation of Ugandan faces that offer promise of a different way of life in their strife-torn country.

Some of the former members of the group – in their 20's – sang and spoke at the performance Friday. They told stories of overcoming, and how much the world can do to help their country and its people become a vastly different, better place.

We played host to Majo, Annet and Jascinta – and one of the chaperones, Janelle, from Austin, Texas – Thursday and Friday nights. The trio came from half a world away, and their infectious smiles, impeccable manners and constant hugs give me much hope that Uganda of tomorrow can be a lot different than Uganda of the past and present.

Majo, 10, was the oldest and the boldest. She liked the leftover Fourth of July fireworks – including her first sparkler – and pulled pork. She wants to be a teacher.

Annet was the shy one – at least at first – and was definitely cautious about the loud and bright fireworks. She wants to be a teacher.

Jascinta has the ever-present smile. She had her eye on the hot tub and homemade ice cream from the start, and despite temperatures still in the 80's after Friday's concert, all three girls donned their swimsuits and took a dip. Jascinta wants to be a doctor.

Our visit came to an end much too quickly for my family, the girls and me. Majo, Annet, Jascinta and Janelle boarded the bus around 10 a.m. Saturday after I made them all Mickey Mouse pancakes at the house, and off they went to Joplin, Shell Knob, Harrisonville, Kansas City, Wichita, then Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada. . . they will be on the road through most of the rest of the year.

Eighty-four percent of Ugandans are Christian, and it was such a gratifying and, at times, emotional time to hear the girls' prayers of thanksgiving despite what most of us would consider a short list of blessings. It made me realize you don't have to own an iPad or have a pocket full of money to be thankful. Or happy.

I am sure that if the rules had allowed it, the girls could have told us sad stories from their homeland. But that's not what the girls or the African Children's Choir is all about. It's about the present and seizing it. It's about the future and changing it. It's about Majo, Annet and Jascinta, with smiles on their faces, hugs by the dozen and people willing to give them and Uganda a hand up.

Gwokto La'Kitgum
"Even a small dog can piss on a tall building" Jim Hightower

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